Thailand took a firm grip on the Suzuki Cup final with a convincing 2-0 victory over Malaysia in the first leg. The second leg is in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, December 20th.
Normally, cup finals start off rather quietly with the teams sizing each other up. But this one was frantic from the kick-off, with both teams carving out good chances.
In the third minute Malaysia had a great chance from a right-wing cross but fortunately the close range header was straight at Kawin in the Thailand goal.
A minute later Mongkol got free down the right but from his excellent pull back, the ball was sent high over the bar. A neat one-two then saw Malaysia get through on goal but Kawin saved the day with a great stop.
Two minutes later Thaweekarn made space for himself in the box on the left, but his shot hit the side-netting. Understandably, the game then settled down with both teams grateful for the respite.
Malaysia had learned from their previous encounter with Thailand and were playing a pressing game, not allowing the Thais time to get their passing game going.However, keeping that up for ninety minutes is difficult and Thailand had youth on their side.
The pitch was also not helping Thailand’s cause. It was dry, bare and bumpy and it made it difficult to play to feet . That being said, Thailand began to get on top and push Malaysia back into their own half.
The Malaysians were taking no prisoners with their tackling and whilst the East European referee was getting his decisions right, his reluctance to issue yellow cards was puzzling.
Neither side managed to create any more clear-cut chances until two minutes before the interval when Adisak capitalized on a poor defensive header to bear down on goal.
As the keeper came out Adisak attempted to dink the ball over his body but the keeper just got enough on it to turn it wide of the post. A great chance but credit to the goalkeeper.
So all-square at half-time with everything to play for. After the opening few minutes, the young Thai defence had kept a firm grip on the Malaysia attack, preventing the away goal which could swing the tie.
Thailand made a strong start to the second-half and in the fifty-first minute Chappuis sent a free-kick into the box from the right and a Thai forward went down after a challenge from behind but the referee wasn’t interested.
A minute later Chappuis had a clear sight of goal but put his shot well-wide. Thailand came straight back and a lightning break from defence down the left saw the ball moved to the right before the cross found Mongkol who failed to trouble the keeper.
Adisak then nearly broke the deadlock when he received the ball in the box from a quick throw and turned to fire just over the crossbar with the keeper beaten. Thailand had Malaysia on the rack and their defence was rocking.
Chappuis then sent over a great cross which found Chanathip in space but his composure let him down and the chance went begging.Thaweekarn was then foiled by a great last-ditch tackle.
In the sixty-seventh minute Adisak collected the ball in the box but his well-struck shot was straight at a very grateful goalkeeper. Malaysia finally managed to break out and Kawin had to make a smart save at his near post.
However, the respite for Malaysia was short-lived and Prakit got to the by-line down the right but his cross was very poor.The pressure was intense on the Malaysia defence and something had to give.
The breakthrough came in the seventieth minute when Thailand broke down the left and Chanathip’s shot was blocked by the keeper. Adisak reacted sharply and was brought down as he tried to collect the loose ball.
It was a clear penalty and there were only token protests from Malaysia. When the kick was taken, Chappuis held his nerve to send a low shot into the left-hand corner, despite the keeper guessing correctly.
The Thais were elated and fully deserved their lead. Now, it was vital that they survived the inevitable Malaysia response and keep a clean sheet. Although the visitors did try to push forward, the Thai defence remained solid.
As Malaysia searched for an equalizer, they left themselves open to the counter and Thailand duly came up with a second, killer goal in the eighty-fifth minute. A swift break down the left saw Chanathip burst into the box.
With the Malaysian defence struggling to cover, he unselfishly squared a perfect pass for Thaweekarn to gleefully smash the ball into the empty net. An outstanding goal,and richly deserved.
Thailand almost increased their lead and what a goal it would have been. A move down the left ,involving well over twenty passes saw Thailand slice through the Malaysia defence only for Chappuis to shoot narrowly wide when under pressure from a defender.
It was a truly outstanding passage of play which deserved to put the icing on the cake and it will be viewed on You Tube on numerous occasions.
Malaysia then made one final effort and in the last minute of stoppage time, Kawin acrobatically turned a header over the bar to deny Malaysia that precious away goal.
The final whistle went shortly after and it was a great result for Thailand.Whilst the tie is far from over, they must feel that they can score goals themselves in the second leg.
The second-half performance was excellent and they were superior in every department.They are a young side who can only get better. One point to consider, how good would they be with Buriram players in the side?